Posted on Thursday 30 January 2020 by John Mulgrew

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The heart of Belfast’s pub and hotel scene could see rates bills soar by 50% and have a “crippling effect on the area” – amounting to an additional £1.2m a year – as part of a government revaluation, Ulster Business can reveal.

A study of almost two dozen hospitality businesses in the popular Cathedral Quarter area – one of the main destinations for tourists visiting Belfast – could see a rates increase on average of almost 50% for pubs, while hotels in the area could see bills rise by more than a third.

A survey of 17 bars shows the total expected rates bills could rise by £813,000 a year, while five hotels in the area could see them in total rise by £431,000.

It’s claimed the surge could have knock on effect on the area, including rising prices for the consumer. The revamp is part of the Department of Finance’s Reval2020 – which is a reassessment of the rates system which businesses pay. While still a draft schedule of values, each council will also have to apply its own regional rate, based on the new proposed figures.

“The Cathedral Quarter isn’t just about eating and drinking,” Gareth Neill, BID manager, Destination CQ told Ulster Business.

“We have a vibrant ecosystem of arts and culture and fantastic built heritage that makes this area stand out, hospitality plays an integral part to the quality of life in this part of Belfast – for a city to be striving to attract new residents, increase our tourism offer these are crucial to the city’s success.

“We are concerned about that the potential knock-on effects to the affected business owners and there’s a very real possibility it will have an impact on the price of a pint to the people who come to socialise in Cathedral Quarter. The knock-on effect of outdated methodology for calculation of rates on licensed premises (which will hopefully be subject to change) has a potentially crippling effect on jobs and character of this area.”

A spokesman for Land & Property Services said: “In Northern Ireland, nearly 40% of pubs will have no change or a decrease in their Net Annual Value (NAV).

“Any business rate payer who thinks their new valuation may be incorrect, can contact LPS to arrange an informal review and supply any relevant information before the new valuation list comes into force on 1 April 2020.”

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